May's declaration gives us a last-minute chance to pull on the handbrake, inches from the abyss, says Mark Beaumont.
Theresa May makes a cynical, self-serving career move at the expense of the future of the entire country; Facebook eats itself. Right now you’re probably scrolling through thread upon thread of online politicising that reads like United Airlines are hosting Question Time for a week. Tories gloating, Corbynites rallying, Brexiteers tubthumping, Remainers fruitlessly pinning their last fading hopes to the Lib Dems mast. You might even have come across the most illogical (but revealing) Facebooker of all: the one-time Blair voter (often a member of the media) loudly declaring their defection to Farron and revelling in a perceived Labour collapse – ‘left-wingers’ who actually want the Tories to win and are already blaming any Labour losses on people who, unlike themselves, will actually vote for the party. Which is a bit like someone kicking a dog while saying ‘you know who’s really hurting dogs right now? People who don’t kick dogs’.
It’s a shitstorm out there. But through the flack and flam, a thread of unity is emerging, at least within my online bubble. It goes ‘Tories out’. That’s why the election on June 8 can be turned into an opportunity, not a disaster in waiting; why it’s a cause we all need to get behind, for our own sakes; and why this will undoubtedly be the most important election of your remaining lifetime.
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The reasons we need to evict May and her crowing Brexit cronies are numerous, but let’s boil down the three that will directly impact the lives of every one of us in the very near future. First, she’s intent on a hard Brexit – to turn the UK into a tax haven economy outside the free market – which will likely decimate the country, push out any remaining major industries and force us into desperate trade deals outside the EU which will mean rising prices, more poisonous foodstuffs and a race-to-the-bottom of environmental regulations. You’ll be poorer, or even jobless, and quick.
Second, if May wins, we lose the NHS, period. This election will be framed as Referendum 2: This Time It’s Desperate, but the NHS is just as vital an issue. Jeremy Hunt, author of a book on how to privatise the NHS via underfunding, has – would you believe it – underfunded the health service to the very brink of crisis, and Brexit will be the starting gun on mass privatisation which will see us all paying US style health insurance bills, roughly £50 a month for coverage (after you pay the first £10,000 in hospital charges, of course). Have you noticed how Cameron slipped the phrase ‘the NHS will always be free at the point of entry’ into the political lexicon? That’s preparing us to accept paying at the point of exit, like a restaurant meal they have to surgically insert into your stomach and gives you MRSA.
And thirdly, nuclear war. No, seriously, do you want to be killed in a nuclear war? That’s what you may well be voting for here. May held Donald Trump’s hand and happily vowed to continue a ‘special relationship’ with a straw-headed arse-flannel with a grasp on international relations on a level with a woodlice’s grasp on the rules of Pointless and a sudden need to bomb his way popular. As Frankie Boyle astutely put it, Trump thinks of the UK as a nuke-holding facility, in much the same way that we might think of a shed. We need this special relationship like Scratchy needs to maintain a close tactical bond with Itchy.
The next five years will be utterly pivotal – with the Tories in power we’re definitely facing the loss of the NHS, probably facing national destitution and quite possibly facing actual, physical, your-arse-blown-to-Birmingham annihilation. The problem is, Tories vote. So if any of this doesn’t take your fancy, you need to vote as well. As Armando Iannucci Tweeted just this afternoon: “18-24 year olds. I beg you on my gnarled and brittle knees; register to vote, and then vote. A solid 18-24 vote will make a big difference.” You can register here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
Then the dilemma, who to vote for? Easy. Labour. “But Corbyn’s unelectable!” you say? Only if you don’t vote for him. The Lib Dems look like a reasonable choice for the pro-EUers among us, with their innocent ‘what coalition u-turns?’ faces and their promises of a second referendum, and if they’re the only chance of unseating your local MP, by all means vote ahead. But beware the spectre of 2010. Tim Farron hasn’t ruled out getting under the fetid Tory coalition duvet again where, policy-wise, he’ll end up hogtied like a buck-toothed Anastasia Steele, his pro-EU arguments ignored like squeals from the arse paddle. Your vote for the Lib Dems will merely help ensure we end up with May’s hard Brexit and no NHS – just ask anyone who voted for Nick Clegg expecting no tuition fees.
But despite having weathered a joint PLP and media assassination attempt that could’ve taken out a dozen Jason Bournes, Jeremy Corbyn remains the only party leader you will probably ever get the chance to vote for who will actually change your life for the better, much to the establishment’s fear and chagrin. Whatever you think of the man – and heaven knows the relentless attacks on him have done their intended YouGov damage – he’s still the leader of the Labour party, and as such he’s literally our only chance to save the NHS, negotiate a gentler Brexit, roll back the worst excesses of Thatcher’s neoliberalism and privatisation, get a free education, cheaper train fares, a decent wage and rebalance Britain by getting the billion-dollar multinationals, social media profiteers, massive boybands and, oh yes, national newspaper owners to pay their taxes. Like, onshore.
May might think she’s leaping on a favourable trend in popular opinion to shore up her career and drive home however calamitous a Brexit she wants with no objections. But she’s actually given us an opportunity to stop the madness, to pull on the handbrake mere inches from the abyss. This isn’t the time for personality politics. It’s not the time for in-fighting and back-stabbing. Too much depends on it. It’s time to unite against a common enemy, to defy the full weight of media and societal pressure to vote against our own interests and, to de-UKIP a popular phrase, to take back control. Theresa, Theresa, Theresa…